Global tributes paid to Academy of Chocolate president Sara Jayne Stanes
Tributes have been paid from across industry to Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, president and founder of the UK-based Academy of Chocolate, who died last weekend, aged 75, reports Neill Barston.
As a long-term member of Confectionery Production’s editorial board, she had also been the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts for the past 15 years, and inspired a number of leading figures within the food and drink sector during her lengthy career.
Inspired by the late Michel Roux, she went on to extensive experience as a chocolatier, and as an author, wrote “Chocolate – the definitive guide” which was published in 1999, exploring the rich heritage of chocolate and how its use has evolved over the centuries.
Last year, Sara stepped down from her role as chair at the Academy of Chocolate which she founded in 2005, and was named as its president. She retained an active interest in its activities including the annual product awards, which have attracted major global interest, which have continued to be staged despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to Confectionery Production last summer on the annual awards, she noted how far her academy had developed under its team, with its core mission of championing fine chocolate met enthusiastically by a younger generation of emerging chocolatiers from around the world.
She said: “When we started back in 2004/5, I really didn’t think there were enough people that were interested in chocolate to the level that I was in order to make it work, but it was through the likes of chef Michel Roux, and Egon Ronay (critic and food writer), who made me realise that maybe it is all worthwhile.
“We had a maximum of 20 entries for the first time we held the awards in 2005, but 15 years later we are looking at a total of 1,800 people entering, which is absolutely amazing. I would never have dreamt it in a million years,” she said of the annual awards, that were forced to be held online in 2020 amid the pandemic.
Though she recognised that there were significant challenges for the sector during the pandemic, she was optimistic that the strong work being done by a number of British chocolatiers and those from all corners of the world, was an encouraging sign.
She added: “I think it has posed a considerable problem with stores having been closed, but I know people like William Curly, Paul A Young, Duffy Sheardown and Pump Street Bakery are doing really well at getting products out there through delivery and are doing a roaring trade, which is great to see.”
Friends and colleagues have taken to social media this week to offer their condolences after her passing on 24th July following what Confectionery Production understands was a short period of illness, describing her as a ‘pioneer of the industry,’.
Will Torrent, academy of chocolate board member also Tweeted: “Her passion, knowledge and expertise for real chocolate was and always will be infectious. I’ll miss her and our friendship a lot. What a legacy she leaves though.”
Andrew Baker, writer and editor at the Daily Telegraph wrote: “Very sad to hear this. Sara did so much important work, and helped many people follow their dreams.”
Chantal Coady OBE, founder of Rococo Chocolates, who took over as co-chair at the Academy of Chocolate alongside Clive Martyr last summer, also tweeted that she was ‘very very sad to share the news of the untimely death of my lovely and gracious mentor Sara Jayne Stanes, president of the Academy of Chocolate.”
She added in a statement from the academy: “Sara has been a true friend and colleague to so many of us. Her drive and dedication has had a huge impact on the global chocolate industry, and beyond. Since founding the Academy of Chocolate in 2005, Sara has led the way in promoting the understanding of fine chocolate.
“Under Sara’s guidance, the Academy of Chocolate awards is now the most established international chocolate awards; it has provided a springboard for many of the finest chocolate makers in the world today, as well as continuing to encourage and promote rising talent around the world.
“She was an absolute pioneer of the chocolate world, and her pragmatic, passionate and devoted interest for chocolate producers, and the chocolate supply chain, means she will leave a far-reaching legacy across multiple sectors. We will all miss her tremendous energy and enthusiasm, but most of all we will miss her boundless personal support, kindness and humanity. Our deepest sympathies are with Sara’s husband Richard, and her immediate family.”
Piers Zangana, who had worked with Sara for many years as press officer for the Academy of Chocolate, added his tribute.
He said: “Sara was truly one of a kind. I had the pleasure of working with her for a number of years and her passion, drive, and energy was infectious.
“On a personal level, her wit, sense of humour and ability to see fun in some difficulties times, will always stay with me. She had a deep passion for the chocolate industry and the legacy of her work will filter through to many, many generations to come. I know I’m not alone when I say her passing will leave a massive hole in my life.”